Build the marketing team of the future

Marketing teams of tomorrow will need people who are curious, flexible and have a mix of commercial and technical skills, according to panellists at Marketing Week’s Vision 100 roundtable in partnership with Adobe.

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What does the marketing team of the future look like? That was the question addressed by members of Marketing Week’s club of visionary marketers, the Vision 100, at a recent roundtable debate in partnership with Adobe. The panel discussed the talent challenges they face and how the industry must adapt to the convergence of marketing with sales and technology.

Do we need digital specialists?

For seasoned multichannel marketer Barnaby Dawe, global CMO at Just Eat, the issue of whether digital specialists are required in a world where digital communications are pervasive is not straightforward. He does not envy newly qualified marketers who are under pressure to demonstrate both technical and brand skills.

He told fellow Vision 100 members that many digital natives enter the industry with technical abilities but struggle to make the connection between their digital specialism and a brand’s messages.

“We get growth when our brand appears on TV, and as more money goes into above-the-line (ATL) campaigns I will need marketers who understand the brand and the creative idea, and can execute it in a technical way,” said Dawe.

Microsoft’s UK CMO Paul Davies agreed that brands will need marketers with a breadth of knowledge and that the mix of team members must be balanced. This means ensuring brands embrace both the art and the science of marketing.

He noted the emphasis on recruiting people who understand data and technology, but said there is still a lack of attention paid to hiring and training those who bring creativity. “The focus has been on the science and ROI but you must attach everything to a big idea,” he explained. “Future marketers must be good at collaboration because brands need people with strengths in both areas.”

Rachel Swift, head of marketing, brand and social at John Lewis, said the industry needs to understand the consumer environment within which marketing will operate in the future.

“Empowered customers will expect transparency, honesty and value. They will be firm but fair, demanding, and want immediate responses,” she said. “With that in mind, marketers must be able to adapt and embrace change, be responsive and keen to learn what’s working quickly. Finally, let’s not forget this is a creative industry that is supposed to be fun.”

The NFL’s UK head of marketing Sarah Swanson pointed out that her brand has fans rather than customers and that the marketing team is more specialist in the US and generalist in the UK. “We can see the science part of what we do as marketers, but the art must support the passion people have for our brand and engage ‘fandom’,” she said.

Marketers must be able to adapt and embrace change, be responsive and keen to learn what’s working quickly.


Rachel Swift, John Lewis

Many brands have developed specialist digital teams, but HMV’s head of marketing Patrizia Leighton was adamant the entertainment retailer might never have survived going into administration if it had not taken a more generalist approach in recent years.

Her team has had to return to basics, with the marketing strategy focused on how the business meets customers’ needs and concerns. “If we had separate specialist digital teams or a digital plan, we would have lost some of the understanding of the brand that our marketers required to get closer to the customer and connect with them,” she said.

According to Creative England’s chief marketing and strategy officer Dawn Paine, brands are operating in an age of the “irrational consumer”. This means data is useless unless the marketing team can make sense of it and act on it.

“It is a terrifying time to come into marketing and brands need people with strong intelligence and emotional skills,” said Paine. “Marketers are constantly reacting and you must never stop finding out more about your customers.”

The challenge for these senior marketers is how to find the people with the talents they will require. Colin Lewis, interim CMO of OpenJaw Technologies, an online tech partner to the world’s biggest travel brands, says brands must be more prepared to hire people with potential and train them up.

“Few candidates have the exact skills brands are looking for but we want the skills now,” he said. “If you are prepared to train people, the talent you have in your team will be aligned to your brand objectives.”

READ MORE: How to build a marketing team from scratch

What is the solution to the skills shortage: outsourced or in-house?

The argument for bringing marketing activity in-house is that it provides more control, while an internal team is more flexible and agile than an external agency.

David Burnand, marketing lead for Northern Europe at Adobe Marketing Cloud, said the decision on whether to outsource will not be easy in the future. One major consideration will be where a brand’s data sits and how much access agencies should have to it.

“Of course, there remains a huge role for agencies to do the kind of work brands cannot produce in-house, such as massive website builds or specialist creative work,” he said.

OpenJaw’s Lewis suggested a mixture of outsourcing and in-house projects is the way forward. He said agencies bring an external perspective even if they do not always understand the intricacies of a brand’s business.

Creative England’s Paine pointed out a third route which future marketing teams should exploit. “In the future, our marketing team will go direct to a source for a particular service,” she said. “It might be direct to a video production company that can create content more cost-effectively than an agency.”

Microsoft has already hired its own photographers and copy- writers and is considering recruiting video experts for its in-house team to produce bite-size content quickly. “Black Friday was a good example of where we needed content fast and the agency model is not set up for that,” said Davies.

John Lewis is known for having a strong relationship with its creative agency adam&eveDDB, which is behind its Christmas commercials, and Swift said an agency must be a business partner.

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“Adam&eveDDB is integral to our communication strategy and it does our social media marketing too – because it is good at it,” she said. “It also understands our brand. If you have too many specialist agencies with different disciplines, it becomes a fragmented arrangement. We are almost seeing a return to the full-service agency model.”

The British Council’s director of strategy and engagement Hilary Cross agreed and said if agencies are to feel part of the marketing team more time must be spent embedding them into a brand’s organisation.

Just Eat’s Dawe insisted that regarding specialisms such as social media platforms and technical work involving data, it makes sense to bring in outside experts.

“If we did everything in-house, we would have a huge internal team,” he said. “If you are putting more money into ATL marketing, you need external creative input. You can tell when an ad has been put together internally because it has that introspective feel. The important thing is to give agencies the correct brief.”

Often the decision on whether to outsource depends on the skills a brand has internally.

Should marketing strategies be global or local?

Global brands have a crucial decision to make in how they structure their teams around the world, especially when consumption patterns differ between markets. The NFL’s Swanson was the first person the league hired as a specialist marketer for an international territory. She said the LA office now allows her small team to produce specific local content for the UK to ensure it is relevant to British-based fans.

The British Council, meanwhile, has around 500 marketers across the world and local marketing directors have been growing their teams organically. However, if the brand is to be recognised as global, it must devise a long-term international marketing strategy to ensure consistency.

You could argue that as the CMO I should be looking for efficiencies globally and to work with fewer agencies but this does not always work.


Barnaby Dawe, Just Eat

“There needs to be compliance and common marketing objectives so that the British Council brand in Argentina means the same to the people taking their English exams there as it does to those in China,” said Cross.

For a young brand like Just Eat it is unclear whether it is more effective to let teams in different markets source the marketing services they need from local suppliers or control buying from one central location.

“Our business is growing so fast but the UK remains the most mature market, with 45% of people buying food deliveries online compared with only 3% in Italy,” said Dawe. “The marketing teams in different countries have different jobs to do. You could argue that as the CMO I should be looking for efficiencies globally and to work with fewer agencies but this does not always work.”

Just Eat takes a local approach when it needs to, working with small restaurants to help them exploit digital media. The company has territory managers who use a heat map for the benefit of restaurant owners in different countries, showing where demand is coming from, what people are ordering, and where and when they will do so.

READ MORE: The secret of managing marketing teams across borders

Creative England’s Paine said thinking locally can boost a brand. She recalled her time as UK marketing director at Nintendo when it moved from a global to a local strategy. It started using local celebrities in its marketing, for example, and the result was a huge boost to its UK market share.

“There is also the issue of marketing to different regions within countries. When targeting consumers in the North and the South, marketing teams must work even harder on personalisation,” she explained.

Microsoft’s Davies said the decision to go global or stay local is often discipline-specific. “You can make savings by taking a global approach to TV but when it comes to social or experiential events you need local insight.”

What is the effect of marketing’s convergence with sales and IT?

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There was a consensus among the panel that the next generation of marketers must be more commercially minded and have a better understanding of the sales process. In fact, both functions must work more closely together.

No longer can marketers focus purely on product development, pricing strategy, brand awareness and engagement; or sales concern itself only with persuasion and closing deals.

In the B2B sector there has always been conflict over who brings in the revenue. Adobe’s EMEA public sector head of marketing Martin Smith said its sales and marketing teams are working together to target the brand’s best and most loyal customers.

“In the B2B space, this happens around sales events where the challenge is for sales to work with marketing to boost customer engagement,” he said. “We have also aligned individual marketers with salesmen on sales calls because we know that 60% of the sales process is completed before someone touches the company.”

His colleague Burnand said the insight that marketing can provide on customer behaviour can be an eye-opener for the sales team. It can reveal how purchase decision makers targeted by marketing are interacting with the brand and their sentiment towards it.

At Microsoft, the sales and marketing teams interact often
and attend ‘lunch and learn’ events to improve their knowledge of each other’s roles. The company also aligns different brand marketers with specific category and channel teams.

In the future we need to map those experiences and have an aligned and consistent CRM system.


Hillary Cross, British Council

“Like the NFL we have fans so we are changing the way we market new products,” said Davies. “For Windows 10, we did a beta launch to obtain feedback from influencers to create a genuinely crowdsourced product. Then, rather than having a large media launch, we held an event for fans and made them feel special. They shared their experiences across their social networks.”

Just Eat’s Dawe described the convergence between sales and marketing as like a tempestuous marriage. He said marketing feels it has influence over new product development based on insight and data. In reality, marketing needs to get even closer to sales and also to the finance department, which sits between the two functions.

“As an ecommerce business, our growth is driven by sales but we have to invest in the brand and in marketing to increase our sales. There is a direct correlation,” explained Dawe.

In retail, it is often the trade marketing teams that have helped to boost sales and extract more value from the sales process, said HMV’s Leighton, largely because of the customer insight that marketing provides.

Cross, meanwhile, has brought in a new director of marketing and sales at the British Council to demonstrate that marketing is not a cost for the organisation but crucial for sales success.

As to marketing converging with technology, it is all about which systems you invest in. She said: “Our offices around the world are currently using different systems and as marketers we have no record of the fantastic customer experience people have enjoyed in various countries. In the future we need to map those experiences and have an aligned and consistent CRM system.”

Marketing is increasingly converging with sales and technology because customer experience is becoming the main differentiator in a world where consumers are empowered and knowledgeable. The marketing team of the future must embrace this by ensuring it has a broad range of specialist and generalist skills to call upon, either internally or by outsourcing to agencies that understand its brand.

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